Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Our Busy Weekend

We've had a busy couple of weeks, but it looks like we may finally have a couple of days at least, where we can catch our breath. We did enjoy our busy weekend though, as our city celebrated Heritage Days. It's a great time with food, a craft fair, car show, an excellent parade, and "Paint on State", where anyone can purchase a square on the main street, and paint it. The end result is always colorful, creative, and really fun! Here are a few photos...

The Monte Carlo SS- a blast from the past. I've always loved this car!

A glimpse of Paint on State

My girl getting ready to paint

Love this painting of a parakeet!

Yes, He is!

Her first idea proved too much, so she went with a Jackson Pollack type effect

An artist carved this ice cream cone from a huge block of wood- cool!

The girls' haul from the parade- not bad!

A good but tiring weekend, I'm off to bed, good night!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Silverdale Press LLC - A Crew Review

Are you homeschooling through summer? Or are you taking a break? Either way, at some point, you'll probably be looking for some activities to occupy your kids. Unit Studies are a great way to take a break from the regular routine of schoolwork. You can find studies on pretty much every subject under the sun, so whether you're hitting the amusement parks while off of school, or vacationing abroad, there are a myriad of studies that can be researched. 

We happen to be a family that takes a break from most schoolwork for June, July, and a part of August, but there are plenty of days where we just need something to cure the boredom. Silverdale Press LLC came through for us and provided some excellent White House Unit Studies for us to review. There are six studies in this set, and may be used with ages ranging from 5 years, to 18 years, or in other terms, K-12. Conveniently, there are two options for these, an elementary option for the younger ones, and then an option for junior/senior high school students. That's great news for those of you with kids of varying ages.

How does your family celebrate holidays? Have you ever truly considered the history behind these special days, or are you content to put up a few related decorations, and go through the motions? Perhaps we know a bit more about the major holidays, but what about the origins of Labor Day, Veteran's Day, and yes, maybe even Thanksgiving? There are fascinating details to learn about the origins. We decided to tackle two of these studies, and kind of get an overview of the material, with our intention being that we will bring them back into our studies at the appropriate time during this next school year (meaning, when those holidays come back around). As we chose Labor Day and Veteran's Day, they are still patriotic, so with Independence Day approaching in July, they still fit in well for the this time of year.

The Labor Day study consists of 3 lessons:

Lesson 1 - Labor Conditions and Eleanor Roosevelt
Lesson 2 - The First Labor Day, Pullman Strike, and President Cleveland
Lesson 3 - A Holiday Declared

I love how the lessons are clearly outlined. You are told what the lesson is, the necessary materials, learning outcomes, and how long (approximately) the lesson will take. This Unit Study is so simple to follow. Read the directions, and do what is says, that's it. Everything is laid out for the student and teacher. There are introductory questions to pose to your kids to get them thinking, and spark a conversation. A fantastic feature of these White House studies, is the use of actual photos and primary source documents. I know that I appreciate that aspect more than my daughters at this point, but it's great nonetheless.

For this study, we looked at, and read an article by Eleanor Roosevelt about child labor, read speech transcripts from President's Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Reagan. I must say, one of the coolest parts of that lesson, was listening to the actual transcript by Franklin D. Roosevelt from September 6, 1936, from his fireside chat on drought conditions. We were able to read along from the part that we have in the study, for the last few minutes. THAT WAS COOL. You can listen to, by checking out this link:

This study explains how the holiday was instituted, and includes speeches on Labor Day from recent president's as well, right up to our current, President Trump. Fantastic, it's a fantastic study. I like the writing style of these lessons. They are intelligent, interesting, and easy to read. There are discussion questions that follow up the study.

Seeing that we are on a relaxed schedule, and that my girls are older, I had the girls read each of the articles, and transcripts  (except for the Roosevelt's fireside chat, which we listened to together) independently, and then we discussed the questions together. When the next school year begins, I think that we'll incorporate more writing to the work, but I haven't decided yet. This way worked well, and the girls had no complaints, so we'll see. All in all, it was a study that I LOVED, and that my girls at least found interesting, which in 8th and 9th grade terms, is actually high praise.

Our second study that we've been working on features Veteran's Day. Like the Labor Day study, the outline is pretty much the same. Again, there are three lessons:

Lesson 1 - President Woodrow Wilson and the Story of Armistice Day
Lesson 2 - Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points
Lesson 3 - The Story of Dwight Eisenhower and How We Got Veteran's Day

Activities for the Veteran's Day included a crossword puzzle, photos of government posters of that era, as well as those of presidents. Once again, we answered the questions orally, and I had the girls do the readings independently. We enjoyed an interesting discussion about members on my side of the family, and my husband's side of the family, who were in the armed forces, and which of those family members had served in wars. We enjoyed this study as much as the Labor Day study. I cannot wait to not only revisit these two that we have worked through, but to include the others in this set.

We have done a few Unit Studies here and there, but I love the detail and richness that Silverdale Press LLC  provides here. I love the content, the activities, the documents, the photos. No fluff here. I'm excited to include these in our junior high and high school curriculum. Check them out, you won't be disappointed.

We'll be working through the following studies as well...

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Other Crew members reviewed these Unit Studies, as well as a writing program from Silverdale Press LLC called,  Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers . Read all about them by clicking the banner below!

Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers & White House Holidays Unit Studies {Silverdale Press LLC Reviews}

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Max Scholar - A Crew Review

The month of June means the end of the school year for many families, including ours, for the most part anyway. We do a few light activities throughout the summer here and there, and I also use this time to assess the past school year. I look back on what did and didn't work, see where there may be any gaps in our coursework. At this time, it's helpful to track the progress of my girls, and see if they're on track with their grade level(s). 

Happily, I have had some help in the assessment of reading skills for my daughters. Our family received a 12 month subscription to the Reading Intervention Programs by MaxScholar to review.
This bundle of programs uses a variety of techniques to help students of all ages in their phonics, reading, and comprehension skills.  

Getting started was alright once we got going, but I confess that it took some clicking around the site to figure things out. Once you sign up, you'll have a username and password. Parents and students each have their own separate accounts. Once set up, you'll come to the menu page, and can select one of seven categories:

- MaxPhonics

We started with this one, as we weren't sure if this program was meant to be done using all seven categories, regardless of age. You begin with a pretest, and then the program places you where it thinks you belong. The program uses animation, video, and more to guide students that are learning to read in recognizing letters and blends.

- MaxReading

This section also has a pretest. After placement, several passages will be presented, and students choose which to read. They will read it, and use the mouse to click on words to highlight the most important ideas. They will then answer questions to test reading comprehension, and can create an outline using the phrases that were highlighted.

- MaxWords

This category teaches a variety of concepts. There are syllables, latin roots, spelling rules, prefixes & suffixes, and Greek roots.

- MaxMusic

The creators of MaxScholar have selected various musical artists to read and recall lyrics, and identify their context within the songs.

- MaxVocab

Students learn definitions, antonyms, synonyms, and using various vocabulary words in sentences in this category.


This is the area in this program where geography skills can be practiced, along with reading comprehension. Choose a destination on the map, read a small passage about it, and answer questions to complete the exercises.

- MaxBios

As you have likely guessed, this is the section where the biographies of prominent people will be learned. Like other titles, there questions that follow to be answered.

Parents have access to student accounts, and can track progress, and print reports, and generally manage the settings.

I used this with my 12 and 14 year old daughters, who have just finished 7th and 8th grades, respectively. As I mentioned, we began with the phonics, as I wasn't clear where to begin. I figured that of course the girls would ace this section, and we could move on. Wrong. We struggled to get through the exercises, as it kept telling us that we hadn't passed sections. My daughters are easily at and above their reading levels, so I knew it was incorrect. After my 12 year old was very frustrated, we scrapped it, and moved to MaxReading. We did find some success here, as it placed her in 8th grade levels, which looked right since she just finished 7th grade. She would read the passage, and then highlight the main ideas, in order to create an outline. Unfortunately, this was also not the easiest to complete. It was very tedious to get the words highlighted, and there didn't seem to be a way to easily get more words highlighted at one time. 

The MaxPlaces, MaxBios, and MaxVocab went much more smoothly. I would say that both girls got the most out of the vocabulary section, as it taught the various roots, blends, names, and the pages there were generally better to navigate. 

Most of the work could be done independently, but as there was frustration early on, I stayed close by to assist. I was not thrilled with the selection of people that were offered  for students to learn about in the biographies. Several were people that I would never hold up as role models, and I'm surprised that they would be featured here. 
I would also like to see the main page, and the menu, have a more detailed introduction in how to use the program, in what order, and how parents can navigate the page to be able to adjust the levels for their children. This didn't end up being the best fit for my girls, but it could be a good choice for early readers who will have their parents working alongside them to offer a more guided experience.

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Reading Intervention Programs {MaxScholar Reviews}

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Our Week In Review

I'm sitting here, feeling contented, as I listen to the tv playing in the background. My girls are chattering happily as they watch a favorite program. It's been a busy and productive week, and I'm glad to have a little bit of down time as we get ready to jump into another busy week.

My husband spent most of last week in China, which always makes me (and the girls) feel a bit off. Fortunately, it was a short trip, and he was back late in the week, in time for the weekend. Meanwhile, the girls and I were spent the mornings of this week volunteering at our new church's VBS program. When I say small church, I'm not kidding. I had been wondering who would be volunteering with us, and thinking that it would be a good way to meet more people within the congregation. Imagine my surprise when we walked in, and discovered that all VBS helpers consisted of the pastor, his wife, and me and the girls. Lol. It was a good week though. I really felt like we were filling a need, and the kids who attended were sweet.

Father's Day weekend has been quietly productive, if that makes sense. We were up early on Saturday so that we might tackle some yard work that's been overdue. Then the girls and I made a shopping trip to pick up some special treats for my husband. I love that these holidays mean so much to my daughters, and that they really like to spoil us on our respective holidays.

Now the weekend has passed rather quickly, and we're gearing up for the week. The girls have a music /art day camp that they'll be attending this week, which means a little extra time for me to do whatever, and I must say, I'm looking forward to it. I think I'll take this opportunity, and visit a few shops that don't interest my girls. Looking over this post, it all seems ordinary , and maybe even boring, but I feel content. I love these ordinary days, the quiet hum of my family, and I know that all too soon, they'll be grown. But not yet. What are your plans this week?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Change Of Plans

Well, this weekend was supposed to find us enjoying a fun family getaway that our whole family had been looking forward to for months. But, life happens, and we had to adjust our plans. Naturally, there was disappointment, but we were able to see the blessing, the providence of our circumstances. It just so happened that a family member who was going to care for our pets while we were away, was needed at home to help care for another family member who moved to hospice care. Then, a few days of heavy rains caused some seepage of water in our basement. Had we been away, that might not have been immediately noticed, and there may have been water damage. As I ended up being home, I caught it early, and while it is a nuisance, it's very manageable. So, while I had hoped to be posting some vacation photos, those will have to wait. How about a pic of our aging chihuahua instead? Her expression expresses some of our weekend emotions lol.

Oh well, go with the flow. I hope all of you had a great weekend, and a happy upcoming week to everyone as well!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Memoria Press - Traditional Logic 1 - A Crew Review

What was the reason that your family decided to home school? I have no doubt that, if you were to ask a dozen families that question, you might get a dozen different answers. I  would guess that a fair number of families would include in their answer, that they want an educational experience that goes beyond "cookie cutter" curriculum. They might say, as my husband and I would, that they want their children to learn Truth. Additionally, they, and we, would say that we want our children to learn the art of critical thinking. Should you happen to be a family that agrees with that last sentence, then read on, because I have a wonderful course to share with you.

Memoria Press is one of my absolute favorite curriculum sources. We received the Traditional Logic I Complete Set for 7-12 grades to review. As with another resource from this company, when I discovered that we would be receiving this set, I immediately purchased a second textbook, workbook, and quizzes/tests book  so that I could use this with both my 7th and 8th grade daughters. This set includes:

- Textbook
- Workbook
- Book of Quizzes and Tests
- Teacher Answer Key
- Instructional DVD

I'll admit that between the three of us, I was more excited about starting Traditional Logic I than my daughters were. I am a self diagnosed curriculum geek, for sure. I didn't worry about it though, and Memoria Press didn't let me down either, because in the Introduction itself, the author acknowledges through the text that some students might find the subject of Logic boring, ha! See the photo below:

That paragraph definitely loosened up the girls' attitudes! One of the things that I love about Memoria Press, is that while their curriculum is rich and beautifully put together, it also speaks to  the general nature of kids, and appreciates the fact that they may not always flock towards a given subject. After that note in the text about finding Logic boring, it carried out that thought for a few more points, lol.
That example caught the attention of my daughters, and changed their opinion of the subject of Logic, and in the surprised words of my 14 year old,  "You know, I actually don't mind doing this work now. It's kind of funny."

As with other subjects taught by this company, the textbook for this course begins with a note to the teacher. Don't skip this! I always read these, and find them so very helpful in gaining an understanding of the course. This course teaches Traditional Logic. Students will learn about classical syllogism. The material is presented from a Christian worldview, and is meant to help students "train their minds to respect truth" (from the Note to the Teacher, I could go off on a number of tangents just from the Note to the Teacher alone, because it resonates with me so deeply. It is repeated a few times, to the teacher as well as the students, that the material will likely be confusing for a while, but to hang in there, because it will slowly be broken down into manageable bites, and it will begin to make sense. To borrow the idea once again from the teacher's note, see this excerpt in the photo below:

This set has been set for 7th-12th graders. I used this with my 7th and 8th grade daughters, which is obviously the younger side of the spectrum, and the high school grades are the most ideal targeted age. This is a one semester course, and may be completed even sooner than that. The first 3 chapters can feel very overwhelming, but it's important to hang in there, because as I said, they do circle back around and go over it again. The course is broken down into 3 main groups, with various sub groups under each. The general headings are:

-Simple Apprehension
- Judgment (Proposition)
-Deductive Inference (Syllogism)

The material is deep, and often confusing, lol. That's not a bad thing, as I'm finding this course very good at teaching what it aims to do- teach one to think. Fortunately, the lessons are short. We've been working through this 5 days a week, with lessons taking about a half hour, more or less, depending on the day. We begin with the text. Usually, I read that part of it aloud, and then we move on to the workbook. We also work through that together. I'm sure that my girls could work through this part independently, but as they are on the younger side of the age range, and the fact that the material is loaded with information, I read the questions aloud, and the girls take turns answering the questions and filling in their workbooks. It's been working well, and actually a favorite part of our school day.

The DVD, I can't forget the DVD. We watch the DVD lesson after reading and working through a lesson's workbook material. It seems to work better for us that way. We fill in any gaps that were missed while reading, and then we don't worry about finding the page that the speaker is talking about. This video could be updated regarding some of the cultural references, but on the whole, the graphics are helpful, the speaker knowledgeable, and we have no issues.

What else to say, hmm...well, LOVE! I'm planning ahead for our next school year, and Traditional Logic II is on the schedule. You'll find a link for that course, and others, below. Think about adding Memoria Press to your home school. Visit their website for more information.

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Our Crew members reviewed other products from Memoria Press . Check them out!

New American Cursive 1

New American Cursive 2 (Scripture)

New American Cursive 2 (Famous Americans)

New American Cursive 3 (Famous Quotes)

Traditional Logic II Complete Set

Classical Composition I: Fable Set

Classical Composition II: Narrative Set

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New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Critical Thinking Co. - Vocabulary Riddles Book 1 - A Crew Review

Hello, hello! I'm looking for a few kindred spirits to kibitz with me in a klatch. I don't want to be the cause of any kerfuffle, or sound juvenile, rather, I merely hope to inspire a bit of jollity. I don't want to alienate you, or cause you consternation, and I hope that my chatter won't befuddle you, as you wrestle with my jargon. Are you with me? No,  I haven't lost my mind, lol, I'm just trying out a few of the colorful vocabulary words that the girls and I have picked up from  Vocabulary Riddles Book 1  that we received from The Critical Thinking Co. to review.

If you thought that learning the alphabet was only for the preschoolers, you were mistaken! Vocabulary Riddles Book 1 - A-Z Catastrophes brings a lighthearted tone to the task of teaching more challenging vocabulary words for grades 4-8. This book couldn't have arrived at a better time. We were beginning to wrap up the school year for my 7th and 8th graders. This proved to be the perfect blend of learning and fun, a refreshing enhancement to our last bit of studies for the year. If you had asked my daughters how they felt about beginning a new vocabulary review at that point, they may not have responded with much enthusiasm. After quickly flipping through the pages, the lighthearted whimsy of this book won them over.

This is a 30 page (the last 4 of which make up the answer key), paperback, consumable book. In Vocabulary Riddles Book 1 - A-Z Catastrophes , students will work through the alphabet, learning more challenging vocabulary words as they solve riddles. There is 1 page for each letter. The layout for the lessons are simple to work out, but in case you find yourself a little lost at first, the inside cover takes you through all of the steps.

Let me break it down a little further. Each letter has two riddles to solve, which are presented through alliteration. Are you rusty as to the meaning of alliteration? The dictionary defines it as "The commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter." Here's an example:

"Q's Query about the quagmire did little to quell her qualms."

Each riddle contains 4 vocabulary words to learn and define. After each riddle, there are 6 questions to answer in order to decode the meaning of the featured words. They will ask you to decipher the meanings through synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and parts of speech. You'll want access to a dictionary for many of these, I'm sure. Some of the words have more than one meaning, so it's important as you go through the questions, that you see the context that is being used. It's very simple really.

With 26 pages of riddles, we easily finished this book in a month's time, completing about a page every day. We worked on this together, taking turns reading the questions, and decoding the meanings. Some of the words brought lots of laughter! This was an easy addition to our homeschool. Now, reading, vocabulary, and language arts, are strengths for my daughters, so I'm sure that had to do with the overall enjoyment of this book. We love words, and the more unusual and interesting, the better. For those of you with kids that have an aversion to vocabulary, well, you may have different results. Even if that is the case, the lessons are short and fun, and a great way to keep your language arts studies engaging. Your students will be prepping for those looming college tests without knowing it! You can use these as a precursor to your regular lessons, or during longer trips when you find your family "carschooling", and everywhere else you can think of. Right now, the price is $6.49 on their website, so it's very affordable. I have found it to be a fantastic addition, and I'll be checking out other titles. Why not try it for yourself?

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Crew members also reviewed a few other titles by this company. Check them, out!

Understanding Pre-Algebra

Critical Thinking Detective Book 1

Something Fishy At Lake Iwannafisha

Critical Thinking Detective Vocabulary

Dare To Compare Level 1

Read other Crew reviews about this, as well as other resources from this company, by clicking the banner below!

Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}